Bugs Biting Lawns

first_imgHomeowners can prevent chinch bug invasions, at least to a degree. Sparks said St. Augustine is chinch bugs’ favorite grass, but they’ve also been found incentipede and Bermuda grass. * Don’t overfertilize. That practically invites chinch bugs into a buffet. “They lovelush, green lawns,” Sparks said. Many people mistake chinch bug damage for mowing too closely or drought damage.Chinch bugs inject a toxin into the grass that kills it quickly. That damage quicklyspreads as the chinch bugs move from the dead grass to other areas in the lawn. * Get rid of thatch. Thick thatch on the turf provides ideal places for chinch bugs tolive while they feast on your lawn. Spittlebugs’ damage is usually more sporadic within a yard. “It’s not necessarily goingto kill out the turf,” she said. “But you can get some browning-out and dying.” Start treating spittlebug damage by mowing your grass closely. The mowing actionpicks up the masses and mixes them with the clippings. Collect the clippings anddispose of them. A properly maintained compost pile will kill any nymphs in theclippings. To find chinch bugs, part the grass and look closely for a fast-moving insect aboutone-sixteenth of an inch long. These tiny insects reproduce fast. That’s part of whytheir damage spreads so quickly. Sparks said spittlebugs’ damage is quickly apparent. “You’ll see small patches dyingout and little frothy masses,” she said. Ah, summertime. The hot days, the dry grass. Sometimes the dying grass. But don’tconfuse grass dying from heat and lack of water with grass killed quickly by tinyinsects’ attack. Both insects use piercing mouthparts to suck the sap from the grass. That loss of liquidand nutrients can cause grass to die in isolated areas. Apply approved pesticides to treat either chinch bugs or spittlebugs. Sparks said towater your lawn first, especially if the grass is already drought-stressed. Then apply anapproved insecticide to the entire lawn and let it dry. The remaining insecticide is mosteffective if left on the grass where it kills both the immature and adult insects. Don’t forget, though, that these are insects, Sparks said. Look for spittlebugs near the soil line of the grass. The insect nymph will be inside anyfrothy masses you might find. “We estimate that lawn care professionals and homeowners spend about $4 million peryear attempting to control and replace the damage caused by chinch bugs,” saidUniversity of Georgia scientist Beverly Sparks. “With spittlebugs, that drops down to about $2.7 million (spent to control them andrepair their damage),” said Sparks, a research and extension entomologist with theUGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “They multiply quickly, and the immature insects feed with the adults,” she said. “Asthey finish eating in one area of grass and it dies, they move out into a fresh area. Andthe damage expands across the yard.” Chinch bugs and spittlebugs invade yards and grassy areas all over the Southeast. “The adults have wings, and new ones can fly into your yard from neighbors’ yards,”she said. “If you find these in your yard, chances are your neighbor has them, too. Andall of you need to coordinate your control programs for them.”last_img

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